Mayor Announces $80 Million to Rebuild 70 Mulberry Street After Fire

70 Mulberry Street, prior to the January 2020 fire. Image Credit: Google Maps

The fire displaced several non-profits that served the Chinatown community. On July 2, 2020, Mayor de Blasio and Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) Commissioner Lisette Camilo announced $80 million in funding and the creation of an advisory committee to rebuild 70 Mulberry Street, the historic building and social service center that was ravaged by a five-alarm fire on January 23, 2020. 70 Mulberry Street, lovingly referred to as “The Heart of Chinatown,” housed five nonprofit organizations that provided Chinatown with essential community services such as hot meals for seniors, arts and cultural activities, and ESOL classes. As Council Member Margaret Chin explained, “after the fire, Chinatown immediately lost critical senior, cultural, career development, youth, and adult literacy services that immigrant families depended on for generations.”The goals of the redevelopment process are to preserve the existing structure as much as possible and to allow community members to direct the redevelopment. The advisory committee will include the building’s tenants, as well as representatives appointed by Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, Councilmember Margaret Chin, and Manhattan Community Board 3. The committee will engage community members and facilitate the community visioning process, which will likely begin this summer and continue gathering public input into the fall.

The City’s commitment to rebuilding 70 Mulberry Street despite the financial challenges accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates how essential the building’s services are to the Chinatown community.  Council Member Chin stated, “the fire, coupled with this public health crisis, opened the wounds and history of inequity faced by this resource-starved community: small businesses that closed their doors overnight couldn’t qualify for emergency grants, residents were on edge from xenophobic attacks, and isolated non-English speaking seniors struggled with rising food insecurity. COVID-19 stressed our shared urgency to bring this building back…This is a good step to making that a reality, and I thank the Mayor for taking this action.”

Alysha Lewis-Coleman, Board Chair of Manhattan Community Board 3, stated,  “70 Mulberry Street is one of the only spaces in Chinatown that supports and houses non-profits that provide cultural programming, education, and training to the community. In this challenging time due to COVID-19 and budget shortfalls, it is particularly important to ensure these vital resources are returned to the Chinatown community as soon as possible.”

All displaced buildings tenants will be welcomed back, including the United East Athletics Association, the Chinatown Senior Center,  the Museum of Chinese America, the Chen Dance Center, and the Chinatown Manpower Project.

By: Victoria Agosta (Victoria is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)


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